Instructions for a Tiny Workbench

The Milkman’s Workbench (Want)

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches, Woodworking Blogs

Earlier this year I wrote about a portable workbench top that went up for sale in an Australian auction. It was an ingenious solution to a problem that many woodworkers face: How do I do woodworking while watching television in the house?

Well, that’s one of the problems this solves. This bench gizmo also is a handy way to do small-scale woodworking in an apartment. Or demonstrate the craft at a school or club that provides only with a rickety card table to work on.

I am determined to build one this year after I get a few other projects cleared off the books. Why? When I wrote “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” and my parts of “The Workbench Design Book,” I was always hoping to deal with a portable bench. This little guy might be the solution.

The bad news was that the original benchtop was in Australia, plus there were only two photos and a few measurements.

The good news was Jonas Jensen and his father. Jonas is an engineer and woodworker in Denmark. His father is a long-time woodworking instructor. And it just so happened that the father has one of these benchtops. It’s a decoration he hangs on the wall.

Jonas was happy to take some detailed photos and measurements for me, which I am including below. That way if anyone else would like to take a crack at this project before me, they should have enough to go on.

— Christopher Schwarz

Here’s what Jonas has to say:

The workbench looks exactly like the one from Australia, except that this one is missing the clamps for holding it onto a table. It came into my father’s possession about 50 years ago, during a clean-out of the basement in the house where his parents lived. According to him it had belonged to a neighboring milkman.

He repaired it a little because it had been eaten by insects. It is used solely for decoration purposes at their house (hence the eye hooks for hanging). There are a lot of old holes from nails on the bottom of the workbench, so maybe it was nailed to some sort of stand once?

The overall dimensions are: 30-1/8″ x 7-1/4″ x 1-5/8″.

The open slot with the two wood screws measures: 1-13/16″ x 19-3/4″.

The end pieces: They are beech, and one end has a threaded hole of 1-1/8″ x 4.5 TPI with 80° angle of the threads (as opposed to 60° metric thread). Dimension: 1-1/8″ x 7-1/4″ x 1-5/8″.

Main body: Made from dense pine, and made out of two boards face-glued together. Dimension: 4-1/4″ x 28″ x 1-5/8″.

One end has a section cut away to make room for the wagon vise. This section measures:
2-7/8″ x 6-13/16″ (which is the size of wood that is cut away).

The remaining part has a groove in the center of 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 6-13/16″ for the wagon vise.

Front of workbench: Beech, with four threaded holes that are 1-1/8″ x 4.5 TPI with 80° angle of the threads. Dimension: 30-1/8″ x 1-1/32″ x 1-5/8″.

One end has a groove in the center of 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 6-13/16″ for the wagon vise.

The threaded holes are positioned approximately 4-1/4″ apart, with the first hole 4-1/4″ from the end of the workbench (the non-vise end).

Side board of the slot: Beech. Dimension: 21-3/16″ x 1-5/8″ x 1/4″.

End block of the slot: Beech, glued to the end board of the wagon vise. Dimension: 1-13/16″ x 1-7/16″ x 1-5/8″.

End board of the wagon vise: Beech. Dimension: 3-7/8″ x 1-5/8″ x 9/16″.

Moving part of the wagon vise: Beech, two rabbets on each end making a tongue of 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 2-7/16″ at each end. Overall size 4 3/4″ x 2 7/16″ x 1 5/8″.

The stroke of the wagon vise is: 3-7/8″

The dog holes are 3/4″ x 1/2″ to a depth of 3/16″ and the rest of the way down they measure 1/2″ x 1/2″. They are distanced 3-5/8″ apart, starting 1-13/16″ from the end of the wagon vise.
The dog holes look like they have been sawed out to the correct depth, and then chiseled out, then the side board of the slot has been glued on, making them dog holes. Actually a pretty neat idea, if you like square dog holes and don’t like mortising.

The front corner joints of the workbench are tenoned and reinforced using a peg (also beech).

The ends are glued and pegged to the main body part – two pegs in each end.

The wooden screws look like they are made from birch, but I am not 100 percent sure of it.

— Jonas Jensen

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Showing 22 comments
  • asimasola

    Great post Chris. I found this image of a similar item which offers a different perspective on the theme.

  • AL

    Good post Chris. I especially liked the photos of the vise. They were helpful in showing how the vise works, for me anyway.

  • David Randall
    David Randall

    Hi Jonas,
    Are there signs on the faces of the wagon vise jaws to suggest it was used to hold work as well as carry a bench dog?

    • Jonas Jensen

      Hi David.
      I am not anywhere the bench right now (I am working on an offshore vesssel in Nigerian waters at the moment).
      But as far as I rememeber, there are no signs that the wagon vise was used for workholding beyond the dogs.
      I can check once I get home (I am scheduled to sign of next week).
      Actually I don’t think the bench has been used very much, it isn’t banged up or anything.
      So my guess it could be that the bench was homemade, perhaps as some kind of educational project. And then the owner newer used it much after that.
      But that is solely guessing form my part.

      • David Randall
        David Randall

        Thanks for the information Jonas, and for providing the dimensions and pictures.

        This will make a very useful project!

        • Jonas Jensen

          Glad to be able to help.
          By the way, I don’t think that the thread size is a standard. So if you are having difficulties finding a tap and die, I would just go for something in the neighbourhood.

          I have thought about making a copy myself, and make some sort of attachment, so it could be mounted on a toolchest. I believe it will fit in the ATC.
          Brgds Jonas

          • David Randall
            David Randall

            Good idea about the bench screw threads Jonas.

            I’ve been thinking about folding legs, but I like your thought about the toolchest too. I’ve just bought a copy of Chris’ ATC book, and this could add another dimension, provided the tool you need isn’t still in the chest when this is on top with work in it’s jaws!

  • BLZeebub

    Everything was going swimmingly till I decided to chop a few mortises during her favorite show. Most of my hearing has returned and you can hardly see the marks now. LOL

    Seriously “cute” little benchie poo.

    the dark one

    • jaysprague

      Nice, real nice.

  • Brett

    Like’s like the Workmate before there was a Workmate.

    • Brett

      Oops. “Looks like”, not “Like’s like”.

  • docwks

    I could use it as a portable carving bench. I think I have an old bowling alley piece somewhere. That is a good looking Newfy in the background.

    • Jonas Jensen

      Thanks for the nice word on the Newfy.
      Every family ought to have one like that if they had the space for it. (And the interest)
      Brgds Jonas

      • docwks

        I miss ours. He broke up more sibling fights than mom and dad, and could clear the coffee table with on swish of the tail. We lost more puzzle pieces that way.

        • Jonas Jensen

          I know exactly how you feel regarding the Newfy each of us once had the privilege to know. The only comfort is that in my beliefs, all Newfies go to heaven where they lie on a nice cold floor awaiting for us to come and scratch them behind the ear.
          Take care

      • docwks

        I miss ours. He broke up more sibling fights than mom and dad, and could clear the coffee table with one swish of the tail. We lost more puzzle pieces that way.

  • GregM

    Actually, that’s a pretty standard way to make rectangular dog holes in a new bench. Commercial European manufacturers (e.g. Sjobergs etcetera) seem to use a chain mortiser – that’s why their steel dogs are so ridiculously chunky. But both Frank Klaus and Tag Frid descibe cutting dados in the edge of the workbench and then gluing on a cover strip. I’ve seen this technique described in other books too.

    I seem to remember watching Roy Underhill do this as well (in the traditional way, sawing first and then chiseling to clear the dado) on his mini-Roubo with the sliding dovetails.

    • GregM

      Edit: I guess it wasn’t Roy’s mini-Roubo – that one has no tail vise and therefore no dog holes. It might have been the oak bench in season 23 (episode 2302). This guy’s made a lot of stuff over the years!

  • Mark Dorman

    Maybe it’s the Original BOB.
    Or more like BOA Bench on Anything.

  • andrae

    Cute. I wonder if these were shop-made or commercially produced.

  • sablebadger

    That’s a really neat looking workbench.

    Can you talk a bit about the workholding of the front? How would you use that for things like dovetails, and other stuff?

    • almartin

      Seems like you’d back the screws out, drop the workpiece inside and tighten the screws against it…maybe with a scrap between to avoid marring the work. More or less like a shoulder vise commonly seen on Scandinavian benches.

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